A pair of St. Simons Presbyterian churches will celebrate their Scottish roots Sunday with the annual Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans, a blessing of the plaid banners that designate particular clans. Because of ongoing renovations at St. Simons Presbyterian Church, the combined service with Golden Isles Presbyterian will be held this year at 10:30 a.m. at Strickland Auditorium at Epworth by the Sea. The churches are also throwing the doors open to everyone regardless of denomination or heritage so they can enjoy an event that only comes once each year, said Rhonda Hambright, music director at St. Simons Presbyterian. “We figured that place is so big,’’ she said of Strickland Auditorium, “we could accommodate anyone who wanted to come.” The service itself is big. The First Coast Highlanders Pipe and Drum Band will play “Highland Cathedral” during a processional of the tartans representing each family clan. When all the tartans are inside the auditorium, the Rev. Alexander Brown will bless the tartans and later deliver the message as he has for several years. The procession could take awhile because there will be upwards of 50 clans represented by tartans. Some will be on display, but others will be carried into the auditorium As expected, 15 of the clans have names that begin with Mac or Mc starting with MacArthur and ending with McNeil of Barra Ancient. There are also some other names, such as Bruce and Wallace, that are recognizable as Scottish to nearly everyone. Alexander, a native of Dundee, Scotland, said he first spoke at the service about five years ago at the behest of now retired St. Simons Presbyterian pastor Bob Brearley. “He thought it would be novel to have a Scotsman present the message at the Kirkin’ of the Tartan,’’ Brown said. Legend has it that the ceremony goes back to when England conquered Scotland in 1746 and, with the Disarming Act, forbade the display of tartans and the playing of bagpipes. Scots responded by secreting scraps of tartans beneath their clothing and having them blessed in churches. It was considered a political practice rather than a religious one. As for Sunday’s special service, Brown said, “I’d never heard of it until I moved to America.’’ But it seems that people become more aware and proud of their Scottish identity after leaving Scotland. “My dad’s best friend never owned a kilt until he moved to Canada,’’ in the 1960s, Brown said. He then started a St. Andrews society and listens to bagpipes. The tradition, which caught on in Canada in the 1980s, was started on this side of “the pond” on April 27, 1941, at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The Rev. Peter Marshall arranged the special service to raise funds to help churches in his native Scotland and for the British war effort. Marshall went on to become the chaplain of the U.S. Senate until his early death in 1949 Brown said he will speak of the worshipers’ Scottish identity in his Sunday sermon, but he will use the writings of Paul to teach that their ultimate identity is as followers of Christ. Brown left Scotland 13 years ago and moved to St. Simons in 2010. One thing he hasn’t left behind is something he doesn’t quite understand, the thrill of hearing the pipes. “It moves you. I don’t know what it is about bagpipes,’’ he said. Hambright agrees. “It’s just thrilling when you hear that first bagpipe and the drums,’’ she said. There will be plenty of both Sunday as the First Coast Highlanders bring nine pipers and five drummers. At the end of the ceremony the Highlanders will play “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave” for the recessional. They will also remain after the service and perform on the lawn at Strickland. And Hambright will carry the tartan and wear a scarf representing Clan Leslie, which lived above the Firth of Forth and Glenrothes, a village with a castle. Hambright said the Highlanders’ performance after the service will be a wonderful gift to those who attend. “The community is totally invited,’’ she said.

A pair of St. Simons Presbyterian churches will celebrate their Scottish roots Sunday with the annual Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans, a blessing of the plaid banners that designate particular clans.

Because of ongoing renovations at St. Simons Presbyterian Church, the combined service with Golden Isles Presbyterian will be held this year at 10:30 a.m. at the Strickland Auditorium at Epworth by the Sea.

The churches are also throwing the doors open to everyone regardless of denomination or heritage so they can enjoy an event that only comes once each year, said Rhonda Hambright, music director at St. Simons Presbyterian.

“We figured that place is so big,’’ she said of Strickland Auditorium, “we could accommodate anyone who wanted to come.”

The service itself is big. The First Coast Highlanders Pipe and Drum Band will play “Highland Cathedral” during a processional of the tartans representing each family clan. When all the tartans are inside the auditorium, the Rev. Alexander Brown will bless the tartans and later deliver the message as he has for several years. The procession could take awhile because there will be upwards of 50 clans represented by tartans. Some will be on display, but others will be carried into the auditorium

As expected, 15 of the clans have names that begin with Mac or Mc starting with MacArthur and ending with McNeil of Barra Ancient. There are also some other names, such as Bruce and Wallace, that are recognizable as Scottish to nearly everyone.

Alexander, a native of Dundee, Scotland, said he first spoke at the service about five years ago at the behest of now retired St. Simons Presbyterian pastor Bob Brearley.

“He thought it would be novel to have a Scotsman present the message at the Kirkin’ of the Tartan,’’ Brown said.

Legend has it that the ceremony goes back to when England conquered Scotland in 1746 and, with the Disarming Act, forbade the display of tartans and the playing of bagpipes. Scots responded by secreting scraps of tartans beneath their clothing and having them blessed in churches. It was considered a political practice rather than a religious one.

As for Sunday’s special service, Brown said, “I’d never heard of it until I moved to America.’’

But it seems that people become more aware and proud of their Scottish identity after leaving Scotland.

“My dad’s best friend never owned a kilt until he moved to Canada,’’ in the 1960s, Brown said. He then started a St. Andrews society and listens to bagpipes.

The tradition, which caught on in Canada in the 1980s, was started on this side of “the pond” on April 27, 1941, at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The Rev. Peter Marshall arranged the special service to raise funds to help churches in his native Scotland and for the British war effort.

Marshall went on to become the chaplain of the U.S. Senate until his early death in 1949.

Brown said he will speak of the worshipers’ Scottish identity in his Sunday sermon, but he will use the writings of Paul to teach that their ultimate identity is as followers of Christ.

Brown left Scotland 13 years ago and moved to St. Simons in 2010.

One thing he hasn’t left behind is something he doesn’t quite understand, the thrill of hearing the pipes.

“It moves you. I don’t know what it is about bagpipes,’’ he said.

Hambright agrees.

“It’s just thrilling when you hear that first bagpipe and the drums,’’ she said.

There will be plenty of both Sunday as the First Coast Highlanders bring nine pipers and five drummers.

At the end of the ceremony the Highlanders will play “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave” for the recessional. They will also remain after the service and perform on the lawn at Strickland.

And Hambright will carry the tartan and wear a scarf representing Clan Leslie, which lived above the Firth of Forth and Glenrothes, a village with a castle.

Hambright said the Highlanders’ performance after the service will be a wonderful gift to those who attend.

“The community is totally invited,’’ she said.

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